Symposium 3

Equal access for all learners to quality mathematics education


Session chair: Paulo Tan

Disability and inclusive equity in light of old and new frontiers of mathematics assessment

Organizer: Paulo Tan,


The present symposium is about disability and inclusive equity (i.e., relational and intersectional disability justice) within and beyond mathematics classrooms. Our proposed symposium places these two spheres under the microscope of analytical and emancipatory rigor. We recognize the dynamic notion of these two spheres oscillates within/between new and old frontiers of the field of mathematics educational assessment worldwide.

When we talk of disability, we have in mind pandisability, that is a comprehensive view of all possible or even perceived disability categories. This pandisability approach is such that it at the same time builds upon and elevates the many instances of interdependence propitiated by the plurality of differences and cultural/epistemological uniqueness these differences afford. Likewise, when we talk of inclusive equity, we have in mind nothing short of highly distributive and transversal social justice ideals.

Therefore, our focus on frontiers, both new and old, expresses a desire, or rather, an imperative for the field’s self-examination. The aim of this self-examination is twofold: (1) to identify old, and even not so old frontiers that may be currently used to imprison and oppress learners with disabilities and other socially excluded intersections of the population at a global scale within and outside mathematics classrooms; and (2) to explore collectively ways to transgress and disrupt these old frontiers, replacing them with much more porous, multifaceted and flexible versions of assessment frontiers which can cope with the relational opportunities opened up by our globalized, high tech educational environments without perpetuating fabrications and taboos that constantly disrespect the learner’s humanity and emerging relational forms of inclusive post humanities.


Paper 1: Participation as both a discursive/positional and narrative/lived issue of shifting frontiers.

Anette Bagger,


Assessment in mathematics is about being able to participate at a high degree. Although participation is a concept well-used in research in mathematics education, alongside with theories about acquisition (e.g., Sfard, 1998). These tend to focus on slightly different aspects of participation. However, what needs to be explored when actually all student’s opportunities to display knowledge is put forth tends to be neglected. When one turns the analytical focus towards critical disability studies, the valuing of mathematical content seems to be lacking (Authors, 2018; Authors, 2019). What does this imply? This proposal explores the current frontiers of assessment through a model that privileges heritage in disability studies (Jansson, 2006; 2010). The model centres on prerequisites that stem from the interplay between the individual and the environment. These two generate the core elements for displaying and exploring levels of participation in the moment of assessment and for understanding the extent to which opportunity to display mathematical content is indeed enacted. The model has the potential to lead to the identification of borders between levels of participation and how the interplay between individual and environment affects the opportunities to display mathematical knowledge. Furthermore, it allows for identifying and exploring connections between or transgressions of boarders.  In other words, what kind of adaptions or support that is needed. The model has been used to analyse a moment of national assessment in mathematics and in which a student worked with a special education teacher. During this, the movement between levels in the model revealed an interplay between levels of participation and the mathematical content. In order for this to happen, the relation between teachers and the special education teacher and student, was crucial. Adaptions and decisions were made instantly and ongoing by the special education teacher. Likewise, by looking at movements between levels of participation one realizes that the dynamicity of participation springs from an interdependence between caring and educating (both pedagogical and curricular) practices. I argue that in expanding or challenging today’s frontiers of participation, there is a need to explore the interplay between lived personal experiences and the discourses on learning, knowledge, assessment and mathematics in society. Questions regarding how research can contribute to this dynamic interrogation and enactment will be discussed.


Authors (2018); Authors (2019)

Jansson, U. (2005). Vad är delaktighet, en diskussion av olika innebörder [What is participation, a discussion of different meanings]. Department of Education: Stockholm University.

Jansson, U. (2010). Delaktighetens villkor [The Terms of Participation. Report of ongoing research project]. Department of Education: Stockholm University.

Sfard, A. (1998). On two metaphors for learning and the dangers of choosing just one. Educational Researcher 27(2): 4–13.


Paper 2: Universal design for assessment in mathematics: Offering students access to… what?

Rachel Lambert,


Universal Design (UD) has been increasingly used as a framework for designing accessible learning environments. Often, UD is connected with the social model of disability, as opposed to individual adjustments that situates disabilities ‘within the individual and sees them as the root of the problem to be cured or treated and normalised’ (Oliver, 1996, p. 32). Recently, UD has been promoted in the field of assessment as well, and in the field of mathematics assessment in particular. Universal Design for Assessment (UDA) aims to reduce the need for adjustments by drawing on the social model of disability, allowing students to take part in assessment inclusively (Ketterlin-Geller et al., 2012, 2015). As Ketterlin-Geller and colleagues (2012) explain, reducing test-irrelevant, inaccessible constructs fosters more valid assessment, which is why UDA should be promoted in mathematics. However, few critical approaches on the premises of UDA have been conducted in earlier research.

This study utilises the approach of Foucauldian discourse analysis to critically observe earlier literature on UDA in mathematics. A literature review was conducted to map out studies on accessible assessment and UD in the field of mathematics education, and these research articles were analysed through a Paulo Tan, deconstructive discourse analysis. The analysis observed how students were subjectified in the articles (Foucault, 1982) by utilising the notions of medical and social model for disability. What kinds of positions were opened up for students through UDA?

First and foremost, the findings underline that research articles on UDA in mathematics were largely focused on assessment as testing, as accessibility practices were mostly aimed at promoting more accessible test items. Therefore, students were subjectified as passive ‘test takers’. Even though UDA was connected with the social model of disability, the research articles did not show signs of, for example, students participation. Rather, the students were given the position of the receivers of accessibility practices, which is an approach often problematised in the field of disability studies. Based on these findings, it is suggested that if mathematics assessment seeks to truly connect with UD, accessibility practices need to reach beyond testing, which calls for more diverse assessment practices in general. Otherwise, it might be that UDA only enables further access to test items, and therefore governance (Foucault, 1982), failing to genuinely align with the social model of disability. Further still, it should be noted that by only focusing on testing, UDA might, in the end, align better with the premises of the medical model (Oliver, 1996). Overall, this investigation highlights the importance of understanding accessibility practices in mathematics through a critical lense.


Foucault, M. (1982). The subject and power. Critical inquiry, 8(4), 777-795.

Ketterlin-Geller, L.R., Johnstone, C.J., Thurlow, M.L. (2015). Universal design for assessment. In Burgstahler, S. E. (Eds.) Universal design in higher education: From principles to practice pp. (163–175). Harvard Education Press: Cambridge, UK.

Ketterlin‐Geller, L. R., Jamgochian, E. M., Nelson‐Walker, N. J., & Geller, J. P. (2012). Disentangling mathematics target and access skills: Implications for accommodation assignment practices. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 27(4), 178-188.

Oliver, M. (1996). Understanding Disability: From Theory to Practice. London: Macmillan Press.

Paper 3: The new frontiers of mathematics assessment as sentipensante relationality: Exploring relevant links between disability justice and epistemologies of the global south

Alexis Padilla,


This paper is born out of the idea that the epistemologies of the global south are not geographically predetermined ways of knowing and conveying what one knows. Rather, they evolve as innovative knowledge positionalities as well as wisdom sharing approaches which emerge from the very struggles of subaltern, marginalized modes of interdependent solidarity (Escobar, 2020; Santos & Meneses, 2020). Thus, I interrogate the extent to which relational cognitive justice can be practically enacted in mathematical classrooms by expanding the sentipensante knowledge frontiers of what Sosa-Provencio, Sheahan, Desai, and Secatero (2018) call “body/soul pedagogies.” This kind of sociopolitically informed, relational pedagogical approach is highly compatible with what Orlando Fals Borda (2016) calls “a sentipensante sociology” within Latin American contexts of epistemological transgression. Neither Sosa-Provencio and her colleagues nor Fals Borda deal with disability justice in a direct manner. Hence, my core task in the present paper consists of unpacking (at least at a preliminary level) multiple mathematical and trans-mathematical knowledge dimensions born out of the very struggles faced by students of color withh disabilities in global north contexts which constitute transgressional neurodiverse, non-auditory and non-visual ways to enact mathematical wisdom embodiments of sentipensante relationality. In pursuing this task, I anchor myself on two crucial cautionary ideas. On the one hand, I have the certainty that not all forms of relationality include sentipensante dimensions, whichh in turn call for a careful observation of distinctive frontier elements being transgressed. On the other hand, it is paramount to avoid the sort of exploitative mathematical knowledge harvesting kind of pseudo-relationality denounced by Williams (2016; see also, Williams, Bertholt, Nardi, Jornet-Gil & Vadeboncouer, 2018). In these pseudo-relational modes of mathematical interaction, the funds of knowledge and identity of students of color with disabilities along with those of their families are likely to be “cultivated” under conditions similar to fish farming, that is, under captivity, toward ends externally predetermined and only useful to advancing institutional interests relevant for schooling actors. As Annamma and Morrison (2018) clearly demonstrate, the higher ends of disability justice and intersectional pandisability solidarity should be the primary driving aims. Anything diverting the course away from them, should be put in watchful quarentene mode, simply combated or disregarded.



Annamma, S. A., & Morrison, D. (2018). DisCrit classroom ecology: Using praxis to dismantle

Escobar, A. (2020). Thinking feeling with the earth: Territorial struggles add the ontological dimension of the epistemologies of the south. In B.S. Santos & M.P. Meneses
(eds.), Knowledges born in the struggle: Constructing the epistemologies of the global south (pp. 42-58). New York: Routledge.

Fals Borda, O. (2016). Una sociología sentipensante para América Latina. Ciudad de México: Siglo XXI.

Santos, B. S., & Meneses, M. P. (2020). Preface. In B. S. Santos & M. P. Meneses (eds.), Knowledges born in the struggle: Constructing the epistemologies of the global south (pp. XV–XVII). New York: Routledge.

Sosa-Provencio, M. A., Sheahan, A., Desai, S., & Secatero, S. (2018). Tenets of body-soul rooted pedagogy: Teaching for  critical consciousness, nourished resistance, and  healing. Critical Studies in Education.

Williams, J. (2016). Alienation in mathematics education: Critique and development of neo Vygotskian perspectives. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 92(1), 59–73.

Williams, J., Bertholt, B., Nardi, E., Jornet-Gil, A., & Vadeboncouer, J. (2018). Development: The dialectics of transgression and social transformation. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 25(3), 187–191.


Paper 4: Assessments of functional mathematics educational ecologies for disabled students of color

Paulo Tan,


Annamma and Morrison (2018) conceptualize ”dysfunctional educational ecologies as ones where Students of Color are not positioned as valuable resources and are instead being lost as outflows” (p. 70). In this presentation, I take on such ecologies conceptualization to set a potential grounding in assessments of functional mathematics educational ecologies for disabled students of color. Such grounding also draws on Annamma and Morrison’s notion of DisCrit resistance as “… (re)defining what is desired in the classroom and schools” for disabled students of color (p. 73). In turn, functional mathematics educational ecologies are ones where curriculum, pedagogy, and relationships leverage disabled students of color’s valuable resources such as their perspective, lived experiences, and ways of knowing and doing mathematics (Authors, 2017). In the United States context, racism and ableism are deeply rooted and intertwined which greatly influence educational structures and practices (Beratan, 2006). In mathematics education contexts, the intersection and compounding oppressions of racism and ableism has not been adequately taken up among critical scholars (Bullock, 2018). Hence, the central questions for this presentation are (1) How can this new frontier of assessment of functional mathematics educational ecologies for disabled students of color be realized; (2) Who needs to be involved in the process of envisioning and subsequently developing such assessments; (3) What can be the core components of such assessments (e.g., privileging communal and relational aspects of teaching and learning (Authors, under review); (4) To what extent can this new frontier of assessment dismantle old and not so old frontiers of assessments for disabled students of color, in general, and in assessment-driven processes like in the individualized educational program (IEP), in particular? In engaging participants and symposia presenters around these four questions with participants and symposia presenters, the goal of this presentation is to develop more crucial questions on this topic and that new avenues of work can be collectively pursued.



Annamma, S., & Morrison, D. (2018). DisCrit classroom ecology: Using praxis to dismantle dysfunctional education ecologies. Teaching and Teacher Education, 73, 70–80.

Authors (2017); Authors (under review) [Masked for review]

Beratan, G. D. (2006). Institutionalizing inequity: Ableism, racism and IDEA 2004. Disability Studies Quarterly, 26(2), Article 2.

Bullock, E. C. (2018). Intersectional analysis in critical mathematics education research: A response to figure hiding. Review of Research in Education, 42(1), 122–145.


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